While never credited on an IMDB page or praised in a movie review, movie props are an integral part of a movie’s success. They are often the unsung heroes of movies. As custom prop makers — 3D props, characters, display props, and more — we always love praising well-made props. In today’s blog post, we are going to look at five of cinema’s most memorable props.
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The One Ring
Often heralded as being the best film trilogy of all time, The Lord of the Rings is both a literary and cinematic masterpiece. In these films, the prose of Tolkien’s novels is brilliantly brought to life. While there are a number of stunning visual elements and props, perhaps the most important is the One Ring. Because it is described in such precise detail in Tolkien’s original works, the direction for making this custom prop was rather straightforward. However, that put a lot of pressure on production designer Grant Major. Plus, the ring is at the heart of the story — it’s even in the title.
As you likely already know, this custom prop did not disappoint. Just as Tolkien outlines, the ring was a simple golden band. But even more impressively, the ring captures the ring’s symbolism that plays out throughout the story. It represents the destructive nature of fire, it appears heavy like a burden, and at times it even appears light and elusive. It’s a masterful prop that has become one of the most iconic props in cinema.
For fans and non-fans alike, the lightsaber from Star Wars is one of the most notable movie props of all time. From its iconic sound to the mesmerizing glow, this Jedi weapon of choice is unforgettable. Set decorator, Roger Christian, had some difficulty making the saber, however. After experimenting with many different techniques, often using flashlights, he finally struck gold when playing around with binoculars and camera lenses. This precipitated the discovery of the prop. Although the lightsaber is rich with cinematic importance and history, the original cost for the lightsaber was around $12.
“Wilson!” Just one dramatic utterance of this word instantly brings to mind one of history’s most notable props. We are, of course, talking about the volleyball used in the movie Castaway. The Wilson brand volleyball features an iconic red hand print that was created when the film’s lead, Tom Hanks, grabbed the ball with a bloody hand. When filming the movie, prop master Robin Miller got 20 volleyballs for the film. Each one was used during the filming, and after the original had been stamped with the perfect handprint, the rest were given matching faces by a scenic painter.
Life Is Like…
While we are on the subject of Tom Hanks, why not talk about another Tom Hanks film with an iconic prop. In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks’ character uses a simple but memorable prop: a box of Russell Stover Chocolates. While it may seem relatively easy to pick out a box of chocolates — after all, this is something we all have experience doing in the late afternoon of Valentine’s Day — the team making this Academy-Award winning film spent a lot of time making their selection. In the end, they obviously made the right choice and picked a box that was both emblematic of the time and carried the metaphorical heft of this iconic prop.
Now mentioned at three out of every five Christmas dinners and gifted at one out of every eight gift exchanges (statistics are pure speculation), the bold leg lamp featured in A Christmas Story is one of the most iconic movie props of all time. The lamp was the creation of the original author Jean Shepherd. When he wrote it into the story, he wasn’t sure of exactly what it looked like, but when production designer Reuben Freed shared his vision with Shepherd, he was instantly sold. When making this custom prop, Freed used a mannequin’s leg, borrowing fishnets and a high heel to help create that bad-girl look.
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